Automobiles – The Necessity of Modern Life


The automobile has become a necessity of modern life, transforming our cities and shaping the ways we live. Few inventions in modern times have had such a major influence. Automobiles allow us to travel long distances with ease, connecting urban and rural areas. They have changed the way we shop, work, and vacation. They have shaped our urban design, government services such as police, fire, and highways, and businesses like gas stations, hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks. They have helped to satisfy the long-standing predilection, especially in the United States, for individual freedom of movement and action.

The automotive industry is a complex one, with countless different styles, options, and features available. The arrangement and selection of components depends on a number of factors, including the intended use of the car. For example, a sedan or sport utility vehicle may be designed for fuel efficiency and handling, while a large truck may be designed for cargo space and hauling power. Ultimately, the design of any vehicle must balance the many conflicting factors.

This month, the High Museum of Art is displaying a rare collection of automobiles that spans several decades of design trends. The exhibition highlights how the design of a car is always a compromise that tries to balance competing needs. But for all the diversity of today’s automobiles, the basic systems remain the same. The modern automobile is powered by an internal combustion engine, which was invented by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens in the late 1600s.